By Kara Busselen
In this case, our baby was our first harvest as vineyard owners. We had big plans to be there when the grapes were coming off the vines. We had a grand vision of photos of perfect grapes being harvested at sunrise, and were anticipating the wonderful smells of soil, harvest and the morning dew. Our vineyard management company gave us a rough ballpark of mid-September for harvest.
This gave us plenty of time for a Labor Day trip to Tahoe, including our first post-Covid concert: my favorite cover band Super Diamond! Bonus: it was Sunday, the night of our 18th wedding anniversary and Michael knew this would be the best present he could get me. We went to Tahoe Labor Day weekend for some sun, some beach, and a whole lotta rocking out to the vocal stylings of the Surreal Neil.
Just to make things more complicated, the fires in South Shore were going full-tilt during this time. South Shore had been evacuated and we second-guessed ourselves several times as we debated still going up to North Shore for the weekend or cancelling the whole thing. In the end we rolled the dice and actually had a pretty smoke-free weekend in a deserted community (it was so odd having the beaches and restaurants open but almost empty on a three day weekend).
The day before the concert, on Saturday morning as we got to the beach, we got an email that they were going to start the harvest that night and finish Monday. We looked at each other, wide-eyed. Wait, what? It was too soon! But the brix wait for no man, and those grapes were ready. We played through all sorts of different scenarios on how we could get to Cloverdale for the harvest and still go to the concert. It was going to be impossible. Even if we left early Monday morning, there was no way we could make it to Woodhawk by the time they finished picking for the day.
We missed the whole thing.
Our crew was kind enough to snap some pictures of the workers and the grapes and send them to us, but of course they weren’t the beautiful, professional pictures we had envisioned.
Our babies were carried away to Silver Oak to start their journey into being wine.
All is not lost, however. We are planning on keeping a few grapes for ourselves in 2022 to age and bottle into our first very own Woodhawk Vineyards Cabernet. Silver Oak has been buying the grapes for years but beyond the “grower samples” they save for us no one has any idea what the true potential is for our grapes on their own. At less than 5% of the Silver Oak sourced grapes, there is no way to accurately judge what our little guys can do.
It will take a few years of aging but we are excited for this next phase. We found a wonderful winemaker who can help us and shares our vision for what our winery can become. We already have plans in place to acquire the tanks, barrels and other equipment we need to support our own initial modest production.. The great news is that with our existing barn and wine cellar we already have the space to make this all happen. Michael has been diligently working his way through his UC Davis extension courses on winemaking and wine sensory development (aka day drinking while sniffing wine) but we are a long way from being able to make wine on our own. Hence we will be relying on the support of others — and we are fortunate to be part of a community that is eager to help newbies like us.
P.S. In case you’re wondering, Super Diamond did NOT disappoint. They gave a fantastic concert and we (ok, I) sang every song at the top of our lungs. Don’t ever let anyone tell you Neil Diamond doesn’t rock!